If a police department wants to outfit itself with military equipment, it will now have to make a very strong case for why it needs to. After an uproar over a program that allowed law enforcement to get surplus military gear—including armored vehicles, grenade launchers, bayonets, and camouflage uniforms—the Obama administration is now limiting the availability of such gear to local police departments. Some items, like firearms above .50 caliber, are now entirely banned for local PDs, but there is a list of "controlled items" including Humvees, "flash bang" stun grenades, and drones that police may acquire if they meet certain requirements. The departments would then need to present a "clear and persuasive reason" and have the request approved by a city council or other civilian government body.
President Obama ordered a task force made up of reps from the departments of Justice, Defense, and Homeland Security to look at the military-to-police programs after pictures of police in armored vehicles confronting Ferguson protesters caused an outcry, Politico reports. Today, that task force released its report, which found that there were "no consistent standards" in place. Local police were allowed to use federal funds to acquire the equipment, with some acquired through grant programs and some simply transferred from the Defense Department, the New York Times reports. The new rules also require any department that does acquire military equipment to train officers on what Politico calls "constitutional policing approaches" on how to use it. Obama will tout the new standards today in Camden, NJ. (Read more militarization stories.)